Feathers, feathers, and more feathers!!!! I have to admit that when I thought about doing a replica of Buckbeak from Harry Potter, there were two things I hadn’t considered. One was that I was going to be making something so small and the other was that I would spend five months making fabricated feathers. Sometimes you get yourself into something and there is no backing out. Of course, I could have dumped the project, but there was so much of it that I really liked by the time it came to the feathers, even I was intrigued by the prospect of finishing it.
The hippogriff started out like every other paper mâché project with wads of newspaper, flour and water, wire armature wrapped with masking tape for the legs, and toes. All this was covered with cloth dipped in white glue.
Toenails made from Super Sculpey clay were added. I haven’t tried paper clay yet because when I started this project, I wasn’t that familiar with it. I like to have a smoother surface so I used a thin coat of Spackle over most of him.
Once he was dry, I was able to sand him and attempted to texture his legs and body. I have to admit the texturing of the body could have been better with the paper clay, but we learn as we go. I used Crayola air dry clay to form the hooves on his back legs.
The above photos are shown before I textured the legs and body. Right now he is just smoothed out after sanding. In the photo below, you can barely see the scrape marks for the coat and added skin texture on the legs. This will become more apparent as it is painted. I had to cover his feet in the front with cardboard to keep from breaking his claws. This was removed when his feet and legs were painted and then put back on.
As you can see, I have done quite a bit of work on his head. The sides of his beak were made by bending a thin wire and gluing it to each side of his face. I made the beak out of Super Sculpey and then molded it directly onto his face. Once I got it to look the way I wanted it, I carefully removed it for baking. The beak consists of the upper and lower parts. The two pieces of the beak were glued on and Spackle was used to fill any gaps between the head and the new beak. Now that the head was starting to look like something, I realized that I didn’t like the look of Buckbeak’s neck. It seemed way too long so I cut his head off, shortened his neck, and re-did the paper mâché. Good as new!The eyes were made out of plastic pearl beads I had around the house. They were the perfect size that I needed. I used a straight pin for the iris but it had to be counter sunk into the plastic bead to give it a flush surface. The bead was painted brown after I created a slightly larger hole for the pin head to sit in. I then took a round toothpick and dipped it in yellow paint. This went into the bead hole to make the yellow line surrounding the iris. The pin head was painted black and glued into the bead. The entire eyeball was covered with several coats of clear nail polish. I used a ball point pen with a rounded end to create sockets for the eyes. After gluing the eyes in, I knew I had to use a thinner fabric for the eyelids so I found an old handkerchief. I cut strips of that dipped in white glue and folded them placing them over and under each eye.
By now I learned that I could use the air dry clay to get a better texture on his face. I had already painted the body by the time I got to this point or I would have re-done the body texture to look more like his face. Oh well! Live and learn!
Here is a close-up photo of his face with texture and paint:
This is how he looked before he was feathered. You can see the texture better on his legs now. This was made by placing tiny blobs of air dry clay on his legs and smoothing them out with a small wet paintbrush. Now for the feathers!
The previous post showed how the feathers were made. I actually tried different variations of feathers and didn’t like any of them. Luckily, I didn’t glue a lot of them on. I ripped those off and started making the ones that are frayed. They looked reasonable so I just kept adding more. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how many it was going to take to cover the areas that needed feathers.
I wanted the feathers to have a sort of wispy look so I would put two rows of feathers over a thin strip of fake fur. I alternated feathers and fur all the way up the neck and head. The only place I didn’t use fur was on his legs.
I wanted to use white fur for his chest since those feathers looked more down-like. I made a paper pattern for the area and then traced it onto some white fur. The fur was glued on with the backing still attached. After the chest was completed, I continued on layering the feathers. Just to give you an idea how many feathers went into this, I calculated it took 60 feathers to go once around the bottom of his neck and there were several rows.
I worked my way up until I met the texture on his face. Now I wanted to be able to blend this so it looked fairly seamless. I had several different colors of fur so I would cut small pieces of the hair off the backing, dab white glue on the ends and gently place them over the clay texture.
When I got to his head, I noticed from my research that the crest feathers were a little longer than the ones I was doing. I did about three rows of longer feathers and gradually sized them down again. As you can see most of the feathers were actually inserted directly into the head and body.
Now that the feathers were done on the body, I needed to finish up the other details. Tiny clumps of fur were added to the hocks on the back legs and Buckbeak needed a tail. I wasn’t sure what I was going to use for this. I thought about yarn, but it was too kinky when it was separated. I have lots of embroidery floss because I do cross stitch. But wouldn’t you know it, out of the hundreds of colors that I have, I didn’t have any grey! Off to the craft store for floss! I used three different colors of grey plus black. I cut and curved a piece of wire half the length of the tail. Then I cut several approximately three inch lengths of floss and glued them with white glue on all sides of the wire. I started with the dark colors and worked my way up the wire, finishing with the lightest color. Then I combed the floss into single strands.
The first thing I did was do some research on the way bird wings looked. I found this simple drawing of a wing and sized it to what I wanted. I used it to get the look of a semi-folded wing.
Because I showed most of the process of wing making in the last post, I will start here with adding the fur for the down feather look. Once again, I used a paper pattern so I could cut the shape of the fur. Little tufts of fur were added where needed.
The fur on the other side was sectioned and combed up as I now needed to devise a way to get the fur to lay down the direction it needed to go. I ran a thin bead of white glue at the base of the fur fibers and pressed them down. I used masking tape to hold until dry. I only did about one half an inch at a time so that I didn’t get glue on the outside of the fur. I also used a half and half mixture of water and white glue to hold any stray fur in place. I’m sure hair spray could also have been used.
Finally after ten months of working on this hippogriff, it was time to attach his wings and display him in all his glory! Buckbeak topped out at 8.25 inches high (20.96cm). Thank God he is completed! On to the next project!!!!!